They were wrong again
The weather forecast for Sunday had been cool and rainy, but I’m getting to be a pretty good short-term weather forecaster in my own way. By using the various weather maps in motion that are available online, I could tell that the predicted rain wouldn’t arrive until mid-afternoon at the earliest, and that the bulk of the rain would pass to the north of either my home area, or the Muskegon area. In the meantime, there would be sun or only thin clouds overhead, good conditions for photography. So, I headed over to Muskegon for another fun-filled day of chasing birds mostly, but a couple of other subjects forced me to shoot photos of them as well.
I’m going to start with a photo that I am personally very happy to have gotten, even though it isn’t that great of an image.
That photo is an example of one that you can only get in the spring, as brown thrashers spend most of their time in the densest thickets that they can find, and this is the view that you normally have of one, if you can see them at all.
Brown thrashers are related to mockingbirds and catbirds, and all three species mimic the songs of other species of birds. All three species also prefer to spend their time close to the ground and in thickets where it’s difficult to spot them, which is made even more difficult because they are also very wary and shy birds. So, getting a photo of one of the thrashers out in the open is a rare thing, at least for me.
The one in the first photo was so intent on calling up a possible mate that it stayed perched there long enough for me to shoot a good many photos, and to also try shooting a video to capture its song.
But, if I’m going to try to record birds as they sing, I need a better microphone, one that is more directional, so that I don’t get all the background noise as I’m recording. I have one picked out, it’s just a matter of time and money before I purchase it, there are other things that I would like to have before I make that purchase.
Anyway, I got to the wastewater facility before dawn, hoping for a good sunrise to photograph. It was a subtlety beautiful sunrise, but I’m not going to post the photo that I shot, as it looks very similar to others that I have recently posted. Instead, I’ll bore you with a couple of my ducks at sunrise photos. I knew that in the very low light that I’d never be able to freeze the wings of this lesser scaup as it dried them, but I was going for a more artistic photo.
I’m still working on getting these photos right…
…as I can’t decide whether to go for the silhouette as in that last one…
…or to get some of the color of the subject as in that one. I’d love to find a duck that would hold perfectly still so that I could experiment with HDR images, but that’s not likely to happen. Still, I love the colors on the water, and the ripples, as the water reflects the colors of dawn.
As you can see, there was some color to the dawn, but it wasn’t until later that the light became truly magical. Remembering Michael Melford’s advice to shoot whatever you see when you get magic light, I rushed to find some sort of appealing composition to shoot, this was my first attempt.
If only I had noticed the tire tracks before I had shot this one, oh well. The good light held for a while, and these two are my other attempts to capture it.
I probably should have chosen a focal length somewhere between those two photos, but I had one more shot at capturing the scene.
I really wished that I had been at a more photogenic area than the flat plain that surrounds the Muskegon County wastewater facility, but that’s the way it goes, and if I had been somewhere else, I would have missed some other events that only happen in the spring.
Just as I was trying to get a good portrait of a bufflehead a few weeks ago, and those efforts were foiled by the bufflehead deciding to engage in their mating displays, I was going to go for a portrait of a lesser scaup, when four males decided to “court” the lone female with them.
Again, I had the 2X tele-converter behind the 300 mm lens, so I had a good deal of difficulty keeping up with the scaup, keeping them in focus, and dealing with the short depth of field at 600 mm.
But, I think that I did a fair job of it.
Capturing the crazed look in the eyes and on the faces of the males.
And, even getting the colors of the male’s heads in some of the photos.
It was really quite humorous to watch the action unfold.
In a way, it may be a good thing that what were supposed to be opportunities to shoot portraits turned into action shots instead, I’m getting better at following the action at 600 mm, and the photos are turning out better as well. I never thought of the combination of the 300 mm lens and 2X extender as being suitable for action photography, but it did quite well with the scaup. But then, they move a little slower than the bufflehead do, so I will still have to be careful in my decisions to use that combination. I suppose that it’s like anything else when it comes to photography, the more that you use it, the better the results are.
I shot a few other photos of the waterfowl, but I tried to limit myself since I’ve been posting quite a few of them lately. I finally was able to get the purple sheen on the head of a blue-winged teal to show in some of my images, and wouldn’t you know…
…the rest of him was behind a rock.
In these two images, the coot on the left was acting as if it were looking to share the other coot’s food…
…and when that didn’t work, it was eyeing another coot’s food, that didn’t work either. It ended up having to dive for its own lunch.
I still need a better photo of a gadwall that really captures the patterns in their feathers, but I think that this is my best so far.
More shorebirds are arriving, there were plenty of yellowlegs, both greater and lesser, but I didn’t shoot any photos since I couldn’t get very close to them. I did catch a spotted sandpiper…
…and, I did a flock shot of these dunlin to mark their arrival.
Sorry about the weird composition, I cropped out some of the plumbing in the lower part of the frame.
It’s too bad that gulls aren’t very popular subjects for photos, as they are the family of birds that I do best with, whether they are flying…
…or if I’m shooting portraits.
Maybe it’s because they look so angry all the time…
…that they aren’t more popular.
They still make great practice subjects though.
The swallows have returned also, I tried for some good shots, these are the best that I could do.
I could tell that I was watching a mated pair, otherwise I couldn’t tell which was the female, and which was the male…
…and, I could only tell the male because he began to sing as his mate worked on the nest.
He sure was a happy little guy!
I decided that it was time to move on, so I headed up to the headquarters of the Muskegon State Game Area in hopes of getting better photos of swallows, or better still, bluebirds. I didn’t find either, or any other birds to speak of, my only photos from that portion of the day are these two not so good images of a violet.
It’s funny, the last two years that has been a great place for birds, but I’m having trouble finding any birds there this year. It may be because of the time of day, I’ll have to try that spot earlier in the day soon.
That’s because my next stop was the Lane’s Landing section for the Muskegon SGA again, and a saw only a few birds there also. I did see a particularly pretty dandelion though.
And, one of the few birds that I did see was a northern flicker, which just happened to fly right past me for these two photos.
This was the most frustrating part of the day. I could hear sandhill cranes, the unmistakable call of an American bittern, a sora, and a Virginia rail, but never caught so much as a glimpse of any of them. I did find this turtle crossing the trail…
…as well as this garter snake.
I should have gotten down to the snake’s level, but it was a warm day, and it seemed to be in a hurry, trailing prey of some type, so it never stopped for very long. Snakes smell with their tongues as well as their nostrils, and this one …
…definitely looked to be trailing something as it tasted the trail that whatever it was following had left.
I see that I’m up to my self-imposed limit on photos, I guess that I’ll have to break that rule, for I have a few more photos to go.
I had planned on stopping at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, but it was getting to be mid-afternoon, so I went the Bear Lake channel instead.
Of course, every one has seen a male mallard…
But, have you ever seen a mallard do a faceplant?
Things are beginning to green up around here, which means that it’s time for me to spend more time looking for songbirds, and less time on the waterfowl. The weather forecast for this weekend leaves much to be desired, but it was the same for the last two weekends, and we had at least half a day of great weather despite the gloomy forecasts. I hope that the same thing happen this weekend as well.
Instead of starting the day at the wastewater facility, I’ll be starting out at Lane’s Landing, both for the birds, and the possibility of a good landscape photo or two. Maybe a better idea would be to try Duck Lake State Park a few more times before the crowds of summer make that an impossible place for birding.
Anyway, there’s just a few days left until I begin my vacation, and I’m really looking forward to this one. I’ll be spending a week, or most of it, up north in search of migrating birds, new places to see and photograph, along with returning to some of my favorite places in Michigan. I just hope that the weather is seasonable for the week that I have off from work, not too hot or too cold, and with mostly dry weather.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!